Not only was it my first time participating in a youth network workshop since high school but also my first time to have the opportunity to exchange ideas and cooperate with youth from diverse ASEAN countries. I’m grateful that I had such opportunity because this whole workshop was more than merely just doing projects with fellow ASEAN participants. It was more about getting to know each one of them and forming friendships. The theme of this workshop was marine conservation and included activities such as video making, lectures, and field trips. All of these were interesting activities that broadened my knowledge of marine conservation. However, above all these, the most priceless and unforgettable experience was forming friendships with my fellow ASEAN participants. We were able to become comrades especially through the UCC making as this activity required us to exchange ideas and cooperate with each other. Our team focused on the underlying fact that not oil, food waste, and plastic themselves but human activities are the key source to marine pollution because such things aren’t harmful to the environment in their original condition but become pollutants when they are used for human activities. We also emphasized the importance of not just viewing these pollutants as useless wastes but potentials to be converted into useful resources for humans. I believe that our team’s UCC was the most creative because all of the other teams UCC overlapped as they all focused on the causes of marine pollution while our team was the only team to focus on what to do with the outcome of marine pollution. Although our team didn’t receive any prize, I was impressed by the creativeness of our teammates and discussing with one another to narrow our ideas was part of the learning. On the last night of the workshop held in Korea, there was a talent show in which participants from ASEAN countries performed traditional dances while wearing traditional clothes. It was fascinating to see the traditional dances and traditional clothes from diverse cultures and the diversity of the performances was what made the whole talent show fascinating.
3 nights and 4 days went so fast and it was already time to say goodbye to fellow ASEAN participants. I was, of course, sad but at the same time glad because I was able to make friends with people from different countries. With this mindset, I got on the flight to Thailand looking forward to meeting new people. Opposite to the workshop held in Korea where Korean participants were the hosts, the Korean youth ambassadors were now guests in the workshop held in Thailand. We were warmly greeted by the ASEAN participants and were divided into groups that were already formed before we came. Since the other participants were already familiar with each other it was slightly hard to fit in. However this worrisome feeling only lasted for a day because other participants were extremely kind and welcoming. I personally favored the workshop held in Thailand above the one in Korea because the program was somewhat more abundant. The lecture we attended at the Chulalongkorn University was the most inspiring out of all the lectures in the workshop. Since my major is political science and diplomacy the professor’s lecture about the current state of ASEAN countries in relation with the U.S and China motivated me to study about the political relations of ASEAN countries. Taking a boat out to the river and planting mangrove trees in the mud was the most memorable experience. It was hilarious to see people being stuck in the mud and not being able to move an inch. There was another UCC making as well in the workshop held in Thailand and once again it enabled me to get closer with our teammates as we had so much fun making it. During the free time we had each night, I and the Korean youth ambassadors went out to explore Bangkok city with some ASEAN friends as well. Bangkok is a city that is vibrant during nighttime. The sight of towering buildings, lively night markets, and nightclubs full of excitement and zeal all made a strong imprint in my memory.
Time flew and it was already the end of the workshop. I was surprised to receive so many gifts from fellow ASEAN participants even from those who I have even spoken to and was so sorry because I wasn’t able to prepare any gifts for them. It was my first time in Thailand and I was able to carry happy memories with me back to Korea thanks to the ASEAN participants. The workshop provided me with not only learning about the theme which is marine conservation but also learning about people which I believe is the most important learning in life. If I were to entitle this essay with a single world I assume that I would entitle it as “relationship”. I hope that the relationships between me and the ASEAN friends will last. Moreover since I have plans of working in the UN, I believe that the relationships I form throughout this workshop can also benefit me. Out of the many gifts I received from fellow ASEAN participants the most valuable gift was the relationships I formed with them.
Lim Sojeong, Korea, 2016 ASEAN-Korea Youth Network Workshop Youth Ambassador